The Trump administration introduced this week a sweeping relaxation of environmental laws and fines during the coronavirus pandemic. According to new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), companies will largely be exempt from consequences for the air or water during the outbreak.
In a letter to all government and private sector partners on Thursday, the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Parker Bodine said that the agency does not expect power plants, factories or other companies to meetand reporting of pollution during this time — and it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.
Under normal circumstances, companies are required to report when they release certain levels of pollution into the air or water. Now, the EPA has effectively ceded its federal authority to state offices and said companies will be responsible for monitoring their own air and water pollution during this time.
“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” Bodine wrote.
Polluters will be able to avoid penalties for breaking environmental laws if they claim that the violations were in some way related to the pandemic. The agency asked companies to “minimize the effects and duration of any noncompliance” and “act responsibly” during this period.